That nickname for the neighborhood north of the U.S. Capitol was unfamiliar, even though I once spent a lot of time in Washington, D.C., exploring museums, monuments and neighborhoods such as Adams Morgan, Chevy Chase, and Dupont Circle.
Walking along 1st St. NE, not far from Union Station, pass contemporary loft and apartment buildings, cafes, boutiques, and grocers, it became clear that this was a new neighborhood. No wonder the name puzzled me.
Once an industrial area, the 35-block neighborhood began redeveloping in 2004 with the opening of a Metro stop on the Red Line. Today, the transformation is well under way and was given its due with the renaming of the Metro stop to NoMa/Gallaudet University in 2012.
Spend any time exploring here and the vibrancy is evident. The corner grocer — the largest Harris Teeter market in the city — near my hotel swarmed with shoppers every morning and evening. Finding a seat at the coffee shop across the street proved difficult at times. And cyclists, joggers and dog walkers frequently passed me along tree-lined 1st Street.
If you haven’t been to DC in awhile, it’s a neighborhood worth checking out, and one with its share of landmarks, too. Historic Union Station, designed in the Beaux-Arts style by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, welcomes travelers at NoMa’s southern end, near the U.S. Capitol. And NPR boasts new headquarters on North Capitol Street. The new seven-story building is attached to a refurbished warehouse and is open for tours. A nifty gift shop on the main floor sells coffee mugs and water bottles with the NPR logo as well as T-shirts and books from radio programs and personalities.
By the time I left, I had figured out that moniker. It’s short for the “area north of Massachusetts Avenue.” I suppose that’s better than Swampoodle, an historic part of the neighborhood that was home to Irish immigrants and named after the once-swampy, puddle-ridden landscape.